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Everything You Need To Know To Be Ready For The NBA Finals

Boston Globe. Getty Images.

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And then there were two. A Finals matchup many have wanted for nearly half a decade, it's finally happening. Two teams that not only match up well, but whose production so far this postseason has been nearly identical. The Warriors are certainly no stranger to this stage considering this is their 6th Finals in 8 years, and for the Celts, after years and years of choking and coming up short, they finally broke through. Everything is setting up to what should be an epic series, where either side has a legit case to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy when things are all said and done. 

Over the last few years, the Celts have done their best to build a version of a roster that could in some ways be the Warriors-East. While nobody can fully replicate what GS does considering they have some all time greats on that roster, it's pretty clear that once they proved their model worked, everyone in the league has tried to copy it to some degree. What do we know about this Celts group? They defend at a high level led by a DPOY caliber talent, they love to shoot threes, they are well coached, and when they are at their best the ball is moving. That sounds a lot like a certain team from the Bay in my opinion. 

This entire postseason it's felt like these two teams were on a crash course to meet in the Finals. It felt like destiny. Now that it happened, this is what we're looking at with these two teams (playoff ranks)

Offense

GS: 1st

BOS: 8th

Defense

GS: 6th

BOS: 1st

Net rating

GS: 2nd

BOS: 1st

AST%

GS: 1st

BOS: 2nd

+/-

GS: 2nd

BOS: 1st

If you watched these teams all year, those rankings shouldn't really surprise you. You know what will though? If I told you the Warriors are averaging 13.5 3PM a game this postseason, that probably wouldn't shock you. It's the Warriors. Well, what if I told you the Celts are averaging 13.4? Not only that, but what if I then told you that their percentages are essentially even as well (GS - 37.9% / BOS - 36.2%). Like I said, the Celts have built their roster to best replicate the Warriors blueprint. Part of what makes this series so interesting is the strengths of each side. The Warriors are obviously a perimeter oriented team. The Celts strength is their perimeter defense. Something is going to have to give. Neither team has really faced anyone like the other so far this postseason which is what makes this so exciting. The Celts path of BKN/MIL/MIA did not have anywhere close to the level of shooting/defense the Warriors have, and the Warriors path of DEN/MEM (no Ja)/DAL did not have the level of size/defense/shooting that the Celts have. 

In terms of style, we're going to see how each team reacts to an opponent that plays much different from the majority of their previous challenges this postseason. For example, the Nets and Bucks were two of the most isolation heavy teams in these playoffs. That played into the Celts defense considering they do not have too many holes 1-5. They were able to be physical and really throw KD/Giannis off their game. The Warriors almost never run isolation. At 6.4% frequency, it's one of the lowest in the playoff field. What they do kill you with though is coming off screens. Nobody maybe in league history is better at it. The Warriors come off screens 7.1% of the time which leads the playoffs, and this is where the Celts switch everything scheme is going to be crucial. They hold opponents to just 37% shooting coming off screens and have a score frequency os just 33%. If they are able to limit the damage coming off screens, they'll have a shot.

The issue there is Steph and Klay basically run a marathon every game and their releases are so quick, all they need is a sliver of space. How many times do we see Draymond/Steph find little pockets of space with screens/give and goes that result in a wide open Steph look. All the fucking time. That's just part of the issue too. If you fall asleep against the Warriors team, you're dead. They cut more than anyone in the playoffs (11.7%), and rank in the 80th percentile off that set. They average an insane 17.3 points off cuts this postseason, which as you can imagine leads the playoff field. While the Celts cut much less (5.6%), they are just as effective. They average more points per cut (1.41), shoot better (71%), and rank in the 86th percentile.

Again, these two teams are basically carbon copies of each other.

When you play the Warriors, you basically have to be perfect. You have one mental lapse, even if it's just for 1-2 minutes, they can end you without even breaking a sweat. You could be in a close game, maybe you have a few TOs, and the next thing you know Steph is shimmying in your eyeball after capping off a personal 10-0 run. Seeing as how the Celts have been known to go on 3-4 minute scoring droughts, that's obviously a concern. Both teams are basically the same in terms of points off turnovers with the Celts at 15.6 and the Warriors at 15.0, and while both sides have shown the ability to explode offensively, the foundation of that success comes back to their ability to execute defensively.

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That's sneaky the real pillar of the Warriors success. Their offense and shooting get all the publicity, but it's their defense that truly sparks everything. We know what Draymond can do, but the progress Andrew Wiggins has made as a defender has been massive. You basically can't score on either of these teams in the paint (BOS - 42.2 / GS - 42.3), but there is one drastic difference on that end of the floor that is ultimately going to determine this series.

Defending the three point line.

Basically, the Celts have been elite in that regard so far these playoffs. Teams average just 9.8 3PM and shoot 31.7% against them from behind the arc. Having said that, the only real legit shooting team they faced was the Nets, and they averaged 11.2 on 42%. The Warriors on the other hand have really struggled to defend the three point line so far these playoffs. They've allowed 14.1 3PM and 38% shooting so far, and two of their opponents (DEN/MEM) aren't that great of shooting teams. The Mavs showed that those attempts will be there, and as long as you can make them at an acceptable clip, the Warriors are beatable. These two teams are by far the best shooting rosters either side will face, so it basically comes down to which side do you trust more to limit that production.

I'm also interested to see when the Warriors go small and play Draymond at the five, what they do when Horford brings him away from the rim. We just saw that when the Heat went small at the 5, the Celts used their size and relentlessly punished them. There are weaknesses to exploit defensively on the perimeter in those lineups, and if Tatum/Brown/Smart are able to beat their primary defender and Draymond is 30 ft from the rim, what do they do? How do they prevent the Celts from feasting at the rim? 

After waiting so long for this matchup to happen, I'm just happy we finally get it. If we're being honest it still doesn't feel real to me that the Celts are in the NBA Finals. We could very well be witnessing either a passing of the torch if the Celts win, or the continuing of a dynasty if the Warriors pull it out. That's what's at stake. 

Please just get me to Thursday already.